Chris Icasiano is a Seattle-based Filipino-American percussionist and composer of great presence in Seattle. One might know him as drummer of the iconic Bad Luck, as a social activist, music organizer and advocate, and/or around Café Racer for Racer Sessions.
Icasiano can find meaning and influence in just about any genre of music, and for his debut solo album, Provinces, a great many of those influences converge into a jaw-dropping personal experience that "explores the complexity of cultural identity and community as a second-generation immigrant in Seattle." It feels like a monumental presentation of someone driven to pull from a deep well of life experience and artistic mastery to find an honest and searching extension of self.
Much of the album is a meditative textural transportation. Gorgeous layers of synth, percussion, slipping and unanchored rhythms juxtaposed against steady drivers on the kit, and field recordings.
Provinces is a collection of two suites, "Provinces" and "Taho". The first suite, "Provinces", begins with Icasiano pushing forth a rapid and alternating pulse that maintains a high level of tension between the high hat and snare. Throughout the pulse, he weaves in subtle shifts in this minimalist and fragile rhythmic dynamic to explore unique tonal relationships that create their own melodies. All the while Icasiano supports his kit work with electronic sonic textures and harmonies that are both haunting and touching. You also get magical moments like explosions of grand-finale fireworks in an already smoke-filled sky, and a head-nod beat that you could stay with for an hour while you soak in a perfect summer evening on the town.
The second suite "Taho" fits right in with similar artistic concepts of "Provinces" and is dynamic in its own vibrancies. Among them are intensely intimate brushwork, swirling winds, and organ harmonies and progressions that call to mind rich folk practices. What really sets this suite apart is the incorporation of Icasiano's field recordings from his first ancestral trip to the Philippines that take these abstract sonic environments and gives them a tangible life-grounding. Provinces is best enjoyed in a committed state of listening and letting the whole thing just take you in to another world.